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A child support lawsuit seeks to provide free legal representation for poor parents facing enforcement actions in Georgia. It also seeks to stop Georgia's practice of throwing thousands of deadbeat parents behind bars.
A judge in Atlanta has cleared the way for a class-action child support lawsuit, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Five parents filed the suit after they were thrown in jail for unpaid child support.
Because the parents were in jail, they had no way to pay their child-support debts, the lawsuit asserts. Some lost their jobs, while others were disabled and could not find work, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The practice of throwing deadbeat parents in jail is widespread in Georgia, the Atlanta judge noted in his class-action ruling. More than 3,500 Georgia parents have been jailed for failing to pay child support over the past two years; none had a lawyer.
Georgia is also among the few states that do not provide lawyers at child-support court hearings for parents who can't afford an attorney, the Journal-Constitution reports.
The child support lawsuit seeks to change that as well. A lawyer for the plaintiffs says it's only fair that indigent parents get legal representation when they're going up against the state's own experienced lawyers.
If the suit succeeds, Georgia will likely have to set aside millions of dollars to pay for court-appointed lawyers. That may be a challenge, as Georgia -- like many other states -- faces budget shortfalls, the Journal-Constitution reports.
The judge's order means the child support lawsuit can move forward, though it's not clear if it will ultimately succeed. Georgia's attorney general's office intends to appeal the class-action ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court, the Journal-Constitution reports.